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A woman who won big on a life-changing scratchcard has reportedly had her winning ticket stolen by a jealous shop owner.
The lucky punter, in her 60s, nearly pocketed £430,000 before the 57-year-old tobacco shop owner allegedly stole it when she went to cash in on Friday.
Police in Naples, Italy, launched a manhunt for the suspect.
Local media have said that the lucky lady bought two tickets and won the competition's top prize on the first, reports The Mirror.
The incredulous winner asked an employee to verify the win, but then the worker asked Gaetano Scutellaro – whose wife is the owner of the tobacco shop – to double-check the winning ticket.
However, he allegedly ran away on his motor scooter and never came back.
A manhunt was launched later that night, with Carabinieri – an Italian police force with a military statute – trying to find him.
But Mr Scutellaro, who had been reported for theft by the woman just moments after the incident, was nowhere to be found.
The Italian tax office – which manages scratch cards in the country – froze the entire block of tickets sold in the tobacco shop to prevent anyone from illegally cashing in the scratchcard.
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Yesterday, two days following the reported incident, a suspect was stopped by officers at Rome's Fiumicino Airport as he tried to board a flight to Fuerteventura, Canary Islands.
When police found him, the tobacconist did not have the winning scratch card on him, Italian news agency Ansa writes.
Mr Scutellaro – who currently does not have any previous convictions – has been reported for theft but has not been arrested, meaning he is able to leave the country without restrictions.
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After being stopped at the airport, the suspect told officers the winning scratchcard was being held in a bank in the city of Latina – approximately two hours from Naples.
The man insisted that the ticket actually belongs to him and that he has opened a new bank account as well as asking for the prize to be credited to him.
However, since the card has been blocked by authorities, nobody will be able to cash in the winnings until the investigation is closed.
The suspect, who denies the allegation of stealing the winning ticket said he wants to report the elderly woman for libel.
Following the incident, the man could suffer the revocation of his shop's license by the Customs and Monopolies Agency.
His wife, who is the legal owner of the shop, will also need to prove that she was not involved in the incident for the business to be able to reopen, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports.
Meanwhile, the scratch card has not been found yet and inquiries are continuing.
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